The family of De La Warre would play a considerable part in Manchester during the 1300-1400’s none more so than Thomas who succeeded to the Barony in 1399 on the death of John without issue, his brother the eleventh Baron.
In 1204, King John had granted to John de la Warre the Lordship of Bristol and in 1206 he was Lord of the Manor of Wickwar in Gloucestershire. On the death of Thomas Greddle, or Grelly, the eighth Baron of Manchester, (See Grelley Family) in 1347, the vast estates of the family passed, through the marriage of his sister Johanna with John de la Warre, into the hands of the de la Warre family. They held the Manor of Manchester for over a century.
In the early 14th century during the reign of King Edward II, John de la Warre was called to be a member of parliament. He had distinguished himself in the battle of Cressy, during the Wars of the Roses. In 1422, Thomas de la Warre, Lord of the Manor, (1359-1426) founded a college, granted by royal licence (now “Chethams” music school and Chethams Library) and a collegiate church (now Manchester Cathedral). Thomas was a priest in the parish of Ashton under Lyne from around 1371-72, and afterwards became rector at Manchester, though he did not inherit the title of Baron until the death of his elder brother John, who died childless in 1398.
De la Warre maintained his interest and patronage in the collegiate church until his death in 1426. He is buried in the Abbey Church at Swinehead, which had been founded by Robert Grelley in 1134. There is a statue of Thomas La Warre on the facade of Manchester Town Hall. After his death the line ended and the Barony passed to the West family through his half sister Joanna. Later, a celebrated family member, Thomas West, Baron de la Warre, is recorded as having married Cecilia, daughter of Sir Thomas Shirley in Virginia in 1596.
He was the proprietor of the Virginia Company and Virginia’s first governor, and he became immortalised by giving his surname to Delaware Bay, river and state in the USA. The village of Wickwar, 20 miles south-west of Gloucester, is an ancient market town which derives its name from Wick, (meaning “a turn in a stream”), and War, from the manor having belonged to the de la Warre family.”
Thomas was aged forty and as the rector of Manchester recorded as “assiduously presiding over the extensive deanery of which Manchester was the centre as rector and Parson of St Mary’s Church”
With the medieval town growing Thomas was left pondering with the problem of how its church could expand to serve a growing populous.
His grand and radical scheme
“Although he was upwards of sixty years of age it was alleged that the design that he entertained of founding and endowing a college was a condition on which the Pope acceded to the solicitation that he had made, to remove him under the restriction under which as a priest he laboured and to allow him as consideration that he was the last male in the family line to take unto himself a wife”